Shooting Basketball w/ White Lightning x1600

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by tahoe2k, Dec 13, 2006.

  1. tahoe2k

    tahoe2k Member

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    Last weekend I shot basketball at a local area High School with my two new WL X1600 strobes - for the first time. I was not able to get on the court to take a light meter reading to set the f stop. by metering. I aimed the strobes (placed at one end of the court) at the ceiling for a bounce effect. I fired the strobes at 100%, and shot at 1/250 second, synch speed. Focus was fine, but many shots were blurred - If I shoot at 1/1000 this coming weekend, is there a "formula" for determining f/stop, or is this a trial and error situation. My favored ISO is 200 and my lens of choice is an 85mm f2.8.

    Regards

    Ron Calef
    ProsportsPixonline.com
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I suspect that trying to use studio lights in this way for sports will be a lot like dance photography. You would need lots of power distributed among many flash heads so that you get a lot of light with short flash duration. I.E., instead of putting 1600 W-s through one strobe head, put 400 W-s each through four heads, and you'll have a better chance of freezing the action. That's how Lois Greenfield gets those perfectly sharp dancers suspended in mid-air.

    The shutter speed shouldn't really be relevant, and I'd be surprised if your studio lights can sync at full power at high speed.

    I also think you're going to lose too much light trying to bounce off the ceiling of a gym, even with studio strobes.
     
  3. jolefler

    jolefler Member

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    Just my thoughts..

    "Back in the day" when I had to go to work for the papers, strobes weren't allowed at the high school/college/pro games...times have changed! We shot 'em with high speed print or pushed Ektachrome with a f1.4 or faster lens at 1/500.

    If your camera syncs faster than 1/125, I'm also surprized. Man, am I behind the times :surprised: Perhaps the blurring is due to the 1/250 speed...I always used 1/500 to stop action at games. But that's neither here nor there, as I would think your flash duration on the strobes would freeze 'em mid-air. I have a hunch that even your gorilla strength strobes don't put out enough punch when bounced off a high ceiling. I had great results in available light with either of the fast films mentioned above...give it a shot.

    Maybe I'm old, behind the new technology and stuck in my ways, but I wouldn't use 'em, 'cause you're going to get to a game or tournament where they're not going to let you use them.
     
  4. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    The paper I worked at had four, ancient, monster strobes permanantly hung from the ceiling of Allen Field House for Kansas basketball. They were set on "kill" and triggered with a radio transmitter. They could shoot sharp chromes at maximum sync speeds. For high school hoops, it was Fuji 1600 pushed a stop for grainy images at 1/250th at best.
     
  5. eddym

    eddym Member

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    I'm with jolefler... I'm way behind the times, too! I used to shoot high school basketball with Tri-X pushed to 1600 with a Mamiya 645, and got great results. I learned to stay under the basket and shoot with a wide angle lens.
    Can't believe they let you fire flash! But I wonder if it's worth the trouble...
     
  6. TimVermont

    TimVermont Subscriber

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    Wow, this brings back memories, not all of them good. Two 1600 watt strobes at each basket on approximately 45 deg angles, not bounced. Rollei 6008 on 1/500th with a radio trigger and an on-camera Metz potato masher flash for fill only. 60, 110 and 180 lenses. Fujichrome, great results. Schedule an appointment with your chiropractor in advance. It got interesting when a player slammed in and broke the backboard.
     
  7. Karl K

    Karl K Subscriber

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    My guess is that the "blurriness" is actually a slight case of the "double-exposures." You got two images: one from the flashes and one from the ambient light. Looking at the edge of the basketball player, you may see the actual double outlines of his body. BTW, what camera do you have that synchs at 1/1000th?
     
  8. tahoe2k

    tahoe2k Member

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    Thanks for the replies....I may have "mis-spoke" as my camera synchs at 250. I am also tad embarassed to admit I now shoot digital (Nikon D1h)...I found this site, read the lighting posts and it seemed like there were some real pros here...so I signed up. Hope I am not like a Nikon guy at a Canon convention. May I be forgiven for having gone to the dark side?

    The main reason I have bounced the strobes is to avoid having the flash shoot directly at the players. I shot all day Sat, never had a complaint. I am out tomorrow at a different gym, we will see how it goes.

    Am wondering if the "blur' is an AF problem - I was shooting with a 70-200 f2.8 for a while...that's a lot of glass for that little motor to throw around. Later when I switched to the f1.8 fixed 85mm, the results seem to improve significantly.

    If I am understanding how this works, it's the flash duration that freezes the action - and setting my shutter speed @ 1/500 or 1/1000 will have no effect?

    I was somehow under the impression from reading my flash meter manual I could set my strobes at 100%, select an ISO, AND a shutter speed, take a reading and the meter would give me an f stop. Did I misunderstand the meter instructions?
     
  9. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    I've seen other people use similar, though they often only light one end since the teams change sides at half time. If you have 4 strobes, then you can light a little farther out to cover more of the whole court. The guys that I know who used to do this would normally shoot 400 speed film, but we were also in arenas that had enough light in the center to get decent results, so they were just filling the basket areas. Except for one game in the better stadium where there was an NBA exhibition game that was covered by their photogs, and then they set up many strobes way up high all the way around the court and tripped them all with radios. They must have had about 16 fixtures up, and this was a stadium that was very well lit where you could get a decent shutter speed with 400 film and no flash.
     
  10. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Don't sports photographers know how to pan and catch the pak of action anymore?

    In the early 40's while in high school I photographed high school basketball games with Indoor Kodachrome (Weston speed 12) and flash bulbs with a Kodak 35. The maximum shutter speed was 1/200, lens f 3.5.

    Of course, the little #5 flashbulbs put out immense amounts of light but panning was certainly necessary as was catching the action at its peak.

    A little practice at panning and learning to catch action at its peak will go a long way in eliminating the blurring.
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes, the flash duration determines the speed of the exposure and not the shutter speed. With studio strobes and a focal plane shutter, if you set your shutter at a higher speed than the sync speed of the camera, only part of the frame will be exposed, and part will be black usually. If that's not the case in this situation, then it is likely that the flash is weak compared to the ambient lighting.

    The way that high speed on-camera flash works is to flash repeatedly as the shutter slit moves across the frame, but it does so usually at the expense of power, so you can't usually get the maximum power out of your flash this way.

    If you are using a handheld flash meter, it should measure the flash output independent of the shutter speed set on the meter. Try setting the meter at various shutter speeds and firing the flash, and you should get the same f-stop no matter what the shutter speed, unless it is metering flash+ambient, and then you might get a smaller f-stop when you are using a fairly long shutter speed.

    A powerful studio strobe has a fairly long flash duration at full power--maybe 1/500 sec. That's why for dance photography, one might use several heads at low power, rather than one head at high power. Your heads have a flash duration of 1/1600 sec. at full power, according to the Buff website. At half power they have twice that speed, etc.
     
  12. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Panning skills are essential and I can assure you that people that make their livings shooting sports do it well. But panning isn't going to get you tack-sharp beads of sweat flying off the dunking player's brow, frozen in mid-flight. Even with all the camera skills in the world, there are things that can be accomplished with massive amounts of fast-syncing light that cannot be without it.
     
  13. tahoe2k

    tahoe2k Member

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    Jim makes a good point about panning, and I pan regularly.You have to, in order to follow the action on the court. I did a major tournament two weeks ago and set the strobes up, pointing into a ceiling corner. Fired the strobes at 100%, shot ASA200, 1/250 and f3.5 to 4.2. I took some of the best shots I have taken this year. Again, probably 1/3 of the images were blurred to some extent, so I went back and looked at them.

    What I think is happening is that it's an auto focus issue. In all the poor images, there was always a section, or player that was in focus - but not always on the "key player". The auto focus sensor that I select is in the center of the matrix, and apparently it sometimes will pick up a on a spot that is not where I want to capture action - like a player behind the "action".

    The strobes are a bit of a pain to set up, but I have it down to about 20 minutes from the time I open the bag to when I am ready to shoot. I'd be hard pressed to go back to available light, 800ASA f 1.4 - f1.8 shooting unless forced to do so. The enhanced light and stop action is much superior and provides me with more usable images. On Camera flash is an option, but delivers very harsh shadows and offers limited floor coverage.


    When we publish to our website for sales we usually load about 1/4 to 1/3 of the take - so out of 100 to 150 shots 35-50 might end up on line. Some are not crisp, some don't have enough interest or action, and some are just not good enough to load. When I first started shooting basketball 4 years ago, I'd shoot 300 plus shots in one game - and If I got 10 decent ones, I was happy, so I guess time, experience, lighting and technique all help.
     
  14. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Wat gear are you using? Nikon? Canon?
     
  15. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Speedotron makes a "sports" reflector so somebody must be using studio lights for sports. The 16" [I think it's 16"] is supposed to really concentrated the power. When you consider how big some of the Speedotron lights are the fact that an added special purpose reflector is needed speaks to how much power people feel is needed.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a tele-reflector that I use with my Norman portables on camera sometimes for bird photos. They're pretty powerful. Should be plenty for sports.

    [​IMG]

    The effect is pretty straight-on, but it does get the light in there, when there might otherwise be no other options--

    [​IMG]

    Alternately, there are fresnel attachments like the Better Beamer and such that can be used with dedicated flash units, so they work with TTL flash metering.
     
  17. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    A Norman, on camera...producing enough light to light and freeze the subject will not likely be balanced with the ambient light. You'll get a nice darkness behind that high-flying basketballer. Four ceiling mounted high power strobes illuminate everything in the shot evenly from anywhere in the arena (thank you, inverse square law). With a radio trigger, the shooter is free to roam and know he's got every shot lit. Virtually all Division I and absolutely all NBA arenes have at least one set and often many sets hung.
     
  18. tahoe2k

    tahoe2k Member

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    I shoot a pair of Nikon D1H's and my prime basketball lens is an f2.8 80-200. I also carry an f1.8 85mm for under the basket shots, but you have to move around a lot more. White Lightning makes an 11" reflector for sports shgooting that will be my next acquisition. I use WL s radio triggers, and only shoot one end of the court w/ the two X1600 strobes. I'd love to put two strobes on the other end and shoot both ends as jstraw says - but, that's a "next investment".
     
  19. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    I been experimenting with basketball shots, too. And I, too, use a DSLR (though I promise to use a Nikon F100 once I get better at this). I most often use a 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 lens. The 1.5 crop works well. But I don't use flash for fear of disturbing the players.
     
  20. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    This brings up a good point...the rafter-mounted strobes fire many many times per game...at many games that many people here have attended. We tend to be oblivious to them. So do the players. On-camera flash is another story...
     
  21. tahoe2k

    tahoe2k Member

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    Interestingly, I have been shooting HS basketball for several years now both with and without on camera flash. I have never had a complaint about the on camera flash - yet. I switched to the strobes this season, and, again, so far so good after shooting 2 tourneys with 16 different teams from all over Northern California. In the big HS year-end playoffs there are always 2-3 shooters, all w/ on camera flash - all shooting under the basket.

    I am thinking about adopting a new strategy when the League play starts in January, and that will involve a letter to the coaches advising that I'll be shooting their game with strobes. I saw a letter on another group I belong to that a BB shooter sends out pre-games and it was well articulated. I do have mixed thoughts about it however - am also thinking leave well enough alone, given that in all those pre-season tourney games, it's not been a problem w/ strobes. But, the letter would serve as a marketing vehicle as well, so that's a plus. Ahh what to do.


    Any thoughts on this approach?

    If anyone's interested, here are some strobed pix - http://www.prosportspixonline.com/galleries/basketball.php?gallery=bkvso061216
     
  22. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I'd leave well-enough alone. You want to seek fewest number of permissions. If the facility is letting you mount your strobes, don't ask for complications.
     
  23. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

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    Bouncing of the ceiling even if white won't give you much. I would cross light with a couple WL 1600's at 30' from the head you will likely only have a meter reading on 5.6 with 400 speed film. Inverse square law! 1/1000 shutter??!?!? Leaf shutter in Hasselblad only goes to 1/500 and with a radio slave works only at 1/250.... 35mm top sync is 1/250 at best... and 1/160 with radio trigger.